Topic: Science Education
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Sat Jan 4 00:37:02 EST 1997
As the product of a rather liberal education, I find it sometimes dis hearteningto be not a "good person" but one who is expected to place
well thanks for listening.lc
Science in schools
Wed Jan 8 14:07:48 EST 1997
For the past five years I have ben an instructor at P.I.N.E.S- an environmental
education program sponsored by Rowan College. Schools send us classes of
children- we provide environmental lessons appropriate to the age level of
the group. Sometimes the children come well prepared- it is obvious that
their teachers actually care about what is being taught. Sometimes the
class does not even know what the topic of the day is because the teacher
did not share this information with them, much less prepare them for the
lesson. This second group can be a real challenge to reach- if their
teacher does not care, neither do they. Most of the children (both groups)
have not been encouraged to think beyond the obvious facts to be presented.
The teachers seem to see thinking on the part of their students as a threat
to their authority- maybe because they feel inadequately prepared (the
result of taking education courses in college, no doubt!)If we do an
experiment, the kids always ask how it is supposed to come out, rather
than waiting to see what actually happens. They are terrified of getting
it "wrong" - the teachers feel the same way. This could be one reason there
is so much "fraud" in research these days- the researchers are under too
much pressure to "get it right".
I also work with Girl Scouts and their leaders. At a training
conference I held a science workshop for the leaders- lots of fun
experiments for them to play with. These adults were actually afraid to
try the experiments- they thought they might not get the right answers.
I had to tell them that they would not be graded, that his was for fun.
Eventually, they did loosen up and had a good time, but it was a struggle.
How do we change these attitudes?
Toby M Horn
teacher-scientists precollege, too
Sat May 17 05:57:31 EDT 1997
As a graduate of BMC who earned a PhD and then chose to become a high school science teacher, I applaud the endeavor to revive the scientist-teacher --- and especially at the precollege level. We need people who love and understand the vagaries of exploration by thought and experimentation to work with youngsters. I believe that whether you can sit and listen is less important than whether you remain curious and try to solve problems. It is indeed disheartening that today's academic culture gives more credence to placing well. How can we convince the establishment that our children are a better investment in the long run than building jails? How can we persuade our school boards and real estate tax boards that having a lower student teacher ratio can cut crime? Why have we mechanized/industrialized schools for the most output for unit of teacher when we are trying to reduce the birthrate? My Bryn Mawr education has served me well. despite the rpessure to succeed by others' standards, I feel rich and successful as a high school teacher, though I am beginning to feel a call to encourage bright young people who love science to earn a PhD and then teach youngsters!
Mon Jun 2 01:22:06 EDT 1997
I wonder if people actually think in their own voices...I know i don't always.
Sometimes I don't even think in words at all...what do you guys think like?
Getting it less wrong
Mon Jul 28 08:44:51 EDT 1997
My name is Ivan Teixeira, I'm a Biology student in Brazil and admirer
of your work. I read your "Getting It Less Wrong... Teaching after
Biology 101" text, which I've downloaded from the Internet. I found it
so interesting that I gave a copy to my Psychology teacher. It's very
good to know that someone cares about making people think of science not
as science for the matter of itself, but as something in benefit of
One of the things I liked most was the issue about trying to make
students and teachers see each other as colleagues exchanging ideas.
Here in Brazil, unfortunatelly, some teachers, including those that work
in the University where I study, see themselves as people that knows
everything just because they are PhD. If you contest them, they may try
their best in putting you in the worst situation as possible with them.
Finnally, I hope you can make even lesser and lesser wrong with your
students and that those that have predicted a disaster, change their
ideas and try to make science teaching even "less wrong".
Mon Jul 28 08:52:30 EDT 1997
Many thanks for taking the time to write. I'm both flattered and pleased that
you found "Getting it less wrong" a good expression of some of your own feelings.
It is, I think, important to know that people in different countries/cultures/contexts
feel similar frustrations, since that heops to clarify the problem and
perhaps to move towards the needed improvements. If you had any inclination
to write at greater length about your experiences, we'd be delighted to look
at that as a longer Serendip contribution.
Knowing that others see the same problem also makes one feel encouraged
about trying to do something "less wrong" oneself. Thanks for your wishes
about my students. I hope you will have some impact on your teachers ...
and perhaps yourself become for others the kind of teacher you'd like to have.
getting it less wrong
Sun Oct 19 19:10:12 EDT 1997
With over thirty five years of experience in materials science/metallurgy I
am now contemplating another career change to Middle/High School science
teacher. I would appreciate hearing about more recent experiences of
yours as they relate to the teaching of "process", rather than the
teaching of "material". I have believed for a long time that something has
been going more "wrong" with science teaching, as we witness more confusion
on the part of society regarding critical scientific issues. Thank you for
Wed Nov 26 10:24:29 EST 1997
Learning physics reminds me of walking through a huge deserted carnival. There are tons of huge elaborate machinery, but no people, no clutter. Physicists try to cram people into all the machines, ignore the clutter, and then desperately try to get everything to act "just so". Anyway, here comes a physics professor now, leading his students through the deserted carnival. He points out each machine and says, "Here's what it does when people ride it." He won't put students on it and actually let them ride it because that would be messy. All the physics students stare at the vast machine with vacant looks in their eyes. The machine is just an object. They are not allowed to ride it and so will never experience just how powerful these machines are -- how they can take every perception you have and turn it around, upside down and change everything about how you see the world. The class walks onto the next machine. Like stenographers, mindlessly scribbling everything they hear. except me I'm the idiot who just stands there with my mouth hanging open. Look at that! The professor said it is called "ferris wheel". I get the pidling little yo-yo I've been trying to develope out of my pocket. Well, at least I had the rotation part right. The I toss the yo-yo to the side. How does this mother work?!? Meanwhile, two or three machines down the line, the professor has noticed that one of the students has fallen behind. He gets really irritated. "God these students are so stupid. They can't even follow when someone is LEADING them through this stuff." The physics professor gets even angrier the farther back he has to go and retrace his steps. Some of the very best stenographers see the professor's attitude and copy that too. Finally the professor gets back to the ferris wheel. He looks straight up. He knows exactly where to look -- its not like this has never happened before. He curses, "Damn ferris wheel! This is the second time this year this has happened! Fricking Wierdos! Don't they know how to follow?!?" (I'll just have to take this machine off the tour. This situation is too cluttered. These idiots can't handle anything except ideal cases.) He knows exactly where I am heading -- the control box. At first he tries to coax me down. "Bend your knee here. Put your foot there... No! No! You're not listening!" (Of course not. He's telling me how to get AWAY from the box. Duh!) "Do what I say! Do what I say!" (The professor starts jumping up and down and turns red.) "Do what I say or I'll give you an 'F' !" (Like I care. School taught me long ago that anyone who takes their education seriously shouldn't take their grades seriously) "No you idiot! You can't understand the control box!"
"Why not?", I ask. "Because the instructions are written in Swahili! You won't learn Swahili until the 2nd year of graduate school!" Swahili huh? I wonder how you spell that? I wonder as I climb down. The professor thinks I am listening to him. Really I'm just climbing down to bait him for keywords. Books never say you can't understand that.
Nicole M. Bliss
Tue Dec 2 07:46:06 EST 1997
Ok. I have a comment about the "masturbation guy". Now I know he wrote
his comments a long time ago, but I just got here so here goes...
I agree with him!!
OUR SOCIETY TRIES TO SEPARATE PEOPLE FROM THEIR VERY OWN BODIES! We are
separated from our own brains and discouraged from being comfortable with
thinking. We are separated from all sorts of other bodily organs and
discouraged from being comfortable with all sorts of simple human
pleasures in life. (And I'm not just talking about sex.) When was the
last time you enjoyed a sunset? Or enjoyed the breeze rustling through
your hair? Or maybe listened to the rhythm of raindrops falling? I bet
you haven't done any of that sort of stuff lately. I bet you stopped
shortly after you started going to school.
My point is that this discussion is NOT just about "classroom activities".
And its topics shouldn't be confined to what the teachers running this
website feel comfortable discussing.
I also think that this website is about letting go of what other people
think you SHOULD do with your brain, your education, your classroom, etc.
and figuring out FOR YOURSELF how you are going to act and speak. So in
particular... it doesn't matter if other people think we are a bunch of
nuts just because the word (gasp!) masturbation came up. And the people
particpating in this discussion should NOT have to consult others to make
sure what they are posting is "safe" and "won't get them in trouble".
We all seem to agree that we need to alter the current culture of
education. We want students to think more, to ask more questions, to feel
more comfortable participating in class room discussions. We want
teachers to feel secure enough in their own adult identities so that a
student/colleague with a differing opinion isn't a threat. We want...(hey
you guys! Fill in the blank here! What else should happen?)
We always talk about what education shouldn't be. We always stand up in
the front of our classrooms lecturing about how lecturing is one of the
most inefficient ways to teach. Alright that's it! We want a new
education culture, right? So let's sit down and start defining it right
You know what? I'm a student here at Bryn Mawr. And I like to think.
God knows I'm good at discussions. And I'm not scared of you guys. Or
anyone else out there who wants to give me an 'F' or write me a lousy
letter of reccommendation because my opinion is different and I'm "just a
I have been thinking about this science education page alot. I think one
of the central issues here is respect. Everybody here deserves respect --
teachers and students. Am I being disrespectful when I put my hands on my
hips, look my teacher, Dr. So-and-So, in the eyes and say, "You know, I
really really disagree with you and I think the way you are trying to make
me run my education is wrong." Well am I? And if you were the teacher I
was talking to, how would you handle that situation?
That's a really important question. Because in an educational environment
that encourages students to think, more of those types of situations
should be happening. Are they? How many people disagree with the
professor teaching their College Seminar course? Have you guys asked
the students? What about a show of hands? If you guys ask the
students, "OK. Who doesn't agree with me?" and less than 40% of the
students raise their hands, then there may be a big problem.
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